Men's tennis beats No. 32, 37 after women's doubles team downs nation's top pair

by Mark Cui | 2/2/16 6:30pm

On Jan. 23 and 24, the women’s tennis team kicked off the new year by splitting its first two matches. The team fell to the No. 23 University of Kentucky 1-4 before dominating the University of San Francisco 4-1. On Jan. 30 and 31, the men’s tennis team continued its fantastic season by winning two nail-biters against No. 37 Drake University and No. 32 Tulane University with final team scores of 4-3 against both.

“It just reaffirms that our team is playing at a high level,” coach Bob Dallis of the women’s team said. “It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, we will compete very hard.”

On Jan. 23, the women’s team started 2016 at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Kick-Off Weekend with a loss to Kentucky 1-4.

The team secured its lone point in doubles. The country’s No. 34 doubles team of Taylor Ng ’17 and Kristina Mathis ’18 stole the day with an upset victory, defeating the top ranked tandem in the nation, Kentucky’s Mami Adachi and Aldila Sutjiadi, 6-4. Although Jacqueline Crawford ’17 and Julienne Keong ’16 fell 1-6, Julia Schroeder ’18 and Katherine Yau ’16 secured the doubles point with a 6-3 victory. Kentucky fared particularly well in singles, defeating Dartmouth 4-0. The final two matches of Ng and Mathis both went into the third set before being suspended after Kentucky secured the necessary four points to win the match.

The next day, the women’s team rebounded with an impressive 4-1 victory over USF. The team once against secured the point in doubles, with the pair of Ng and Mathis and the pair of Crawford and Keong both taking wins with final respective scores of 6-3 and 6-1. The third doubles match of Schroeder and Yau was suspended after Dartmouth had already secured the necessary two doubles points. At the time, Schroeder and Yao lead USF’s Hanna Borjeson and Genevieve McCloskey 5-4.

On the singles side, the team replicated its doubles lead, finishing singles 3-1. Although Ng fell to Andrea Ka in a hard-fought 3-6, 4-6, Yau, Mathis and Schroeder all recorded impressive straight set victories, with final scores of 6-2, 6-2; 6-1, 7-5 and 6-2, 6-1. The final two matches, played by Crawford and Allison Chuang ’19, were suspended after Dartmouth had already secured its victory. Both had the lead at the time, with Crawford leading 6-2, 3-5, and Chuang leading 6-1, 4-4.

In both games, the team secured victories in doubles, which had traditionally been a weaker part of the team. Yau described the key to the doubles’ success.

“In most doubles matches this weekend we were able to put good pressure on our opponents,” Yau said. “Being especially solid on your own service game helps a lot, and I think we were able to do that as well as bring a lot of energy.”

After securing the first-place title last year, the team hopes to replicate the same success.

“Being a senior, it is really cool to see how the team has grown each year even though we get new recruits and players graduate every year,” Yau said. “Last season definitely raised the bar for this season, so I am excited to see what’s to come. Competing against UNC at NCAAs and playing Kentucky really showed that we are a force to be reckoned with and that we are definitely ready to defend our ground and win ECACs again as well as qualify for NCAAs again.”

Dallis emphasized the role of practices as crucial to the team’s success.

“To improve our game, we must use our time in practice as a way to prepare and to get better at competing,” Dallis said. “As far as winning or losing, the Ivy League title [and] getting to the NCAA tournament, all those things will take care of themselves.”

On Feb. 5 through 7, the women’s team will next be playing in the ECAC Winter Championship hosted at the Boss Tennis Center.

“Hosting ECACs is awesome, and it is always a fun and well organized tournament,” Yau said. “The teams we play are tough, and it’s a good way to get a feel of what’s to come in the spring. We will definitely be working on a lot of point play to get ready for the matches.”

On the men’s side, the team impressively recorded wins against two top-40 teams, Drake and Tulane, improving their overall record to 5-1.

“[They were] two of the best wins I’ve been a part of in my time on the team,” George Wall ’17 said. “Beating two teams of NCAA caliber over back-to-back days is not something I’m sure this program has done before.”

The team defeated Drake 4-3 at the Boss Tennis Center on Jan. 30, going 1-2 in doubles and 4-2 in singles. Both the Dartmouth doubles pairs of Roko Glasnovic ’19 and Max Schmidt ’17, and Dovydas Sakinis ’16 and Brendan Tannenbaum ’16, fell in close matches, losing to their Drake counterparts 5-7 and 4-6. Max Fliegner ’18 and Wall secured the lone doubles win, defeating Drake’s Ben Clark and Ben Stride 6-2.

After dropping the doubles point to Drake, the Big Green would reclaim the lead in singles. Ciro Riccardi ’18, Wall and Eddie Grabill ’19 secured wins at the second, fifth and sixth singles positions in straight sets, winning 6-2, 7-6 (5-0); 6-4, 6-1 and 6-3, 6-1, respectively. Close losses by Sakinis and Fliegner, with respective scores of 3-6, 6-7 (0-5) and 6-3, 4-6, 3-6, meant that the deciding point came down to Tannenbaum. He responded to the challenge, grinding out the first point with a final score of 7-6 (7-0), and finishing off the match at 1-6, 6-4.

The next day, the men’s team followed the victory at Drake with another clutch win against Tulane, finishing 1-2 in doubles and 4-2 in singles once again. The Dartmouth pairs of Sakinis and Tannenbaum and Wall and Fliegner both fell with final scores of 4-6 for both tandems. Glasnovic and Schmidt rebounded from their loss at Drake to win 6-2. In order to take the win, the Big Green had to finish at least 4-2 or better in singles.

Fliegner, Wall and Schmidt all secured straight set victories, winning with respective final scores of 6-3, 6-4; 6-1, 6-0 and 7-5, 6-2. However, both Sakinis and Riccardi fell to ranked players, as Sakinis lost to the top ranked player in college tennis, Dominik Koepfer, 2-6, 4-6 and Riccardi lost to No. 63 Constantin Schmitz 3-6, 1-6. The match thus once again came down to Tannenbaum who dug deep to win 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.

The team commended Tannenbaum’s performances in high pressure situations.

“Tannenbaum did a fantastic job of maintaining his composure to close those two matches out and the team supported him brilliantly,” Wall said. “Credit to Tannenbaum believing in himself under pressure. To play the aggressive tennis he did in those third sets was an outstanding performance.”

Emboldening the players with confidence, the two wins over Drake and Tulane have made the team excited about what it can accomplish this year.

“Those two wins say that this team can be as good as it wants to be,” Wall said. “With these two results under our belt, we’ll be fearing no opponent.”

On Feb. 5, the men’s team will travel to North Carolina State University to play its first road match of 2016.